Visit the island that inspired the story of the famous Chincoteague Ponies.

Assateague Island is one of Maryland and Virginia’s unique treasures. Located on the east coast of the Delmarva peninsula, it stretches 37 miles along the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the island is in Maryland, except for the lower third, which is in Virginia. The island is home to beautiful beaches, marches, the Assateague Lighthouse, and of course, herds of wild horses. Visitors can hike, camp under the stars, swim, and go crabbing.

Courtesy of NPS

Visiting the Assateague Horses

The Assateague horses were made famous by the Misty of Chincoteague novels by Marguerite Henry. Legend says the horses came to live on the island after a Spanish Galleon sunk and the ponies swam to shore. The more popular theory is that 17th century settlers began grazing horses on the island to avoid paying taxes. The horses spend most of their time on the beach during the summer and then migrate to the marshes in the cooler weather. Visitors are advised to view the horses from a safe distance and never approach or feed the animals.

Beaches and Campsites

Assateague Island has two main beaches -- the North Beach and the South Beach. Lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the summer only. The island also has campgrounds for tents and RV camping that range from $30 to $50 a night. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance on the NPS website. In the summer, bugs are plentiful, so bring bug spray and screen tents!

Assateague Island

Courtesy of NPS

Hiking and Crabbing

Hikers will love the challenging and scenic trails Assateague Island provides. Fair warning, though: hiking in sand is much more difficult, so be sure to plan your hike and bring water, food, and sunscreen. Another popular activity on the island is going crabbing and clamming. Stop by the visitor center for information on regulations, and don’t forget to get crabbing licenses for the adults. 

Assateague Island is open year-round with limited days in the winter. Entrance fees are $20 per car for a seven-day pass and $40 for an annual pass. Beach parking is an additional $15. Always check the website for closures and weather updates before you visit.

Have you ever visited the island? Did you have success finding the horses? Tell us your experience in the comments!